Imagine a football game with no scoreboard. Also, imagine you don’t know how many yards away the end zone is. The field could be 100 yards or 1100 yards — maybe only 25 yards. How would your game plan change? The best coaches of the game would urge you to get as many first downs as possible. As long as you got a first down within four plays you would at some point reach the end zone.
Imagine its 3rd down and 8 yards to go to reach the first down marker. The quarterback hikes the ball and hops in the pocket waiting for his receivers to get open. All his options are covered so he scrambles. He gets slowed down by a linebacker but reaches far enough to put the ball across the first down line. The team goes crazy with celebration! They rush the field and put the quarterback on their shoulders and carry him off the field to the locker room.
Many times this is the mistake that happens with home and visiting teaching. We celebrate first downs rather than touchdowns. We misinterpret the monthly visit as the touchdown when it is only the first down. Everyone gets 100% home teaching and we celebrate as if we won the Superbowl of Fellowshipping.
The Lord has defined the purpose of the game: to “watch over … and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). to “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59). Our coaches (15 prophets, seers, and revelators) realize it’s not the same length of field for each individual assigned home teachers. For Sister Widow it might be a long way down until she feels at peace with the passing of her husband. For the Washburn family it’s a short field because they just need new friends in their ward where they recently moved. The coaches realize they don’t have a scoreboard and they don’t know how long the field is. So what are they suppose to tell their players? They have to find a focus — something they can measure and track. So they tell us to at least get the first down (visit members in their home AT LEAST once a month) and then keep pushing for the next first down.
Some touchdowns are easier than others, but they should all be defined before the team runs out on the field. This is up to the home teachers (with help from their leaders) to pray about the family, discuss, and then decide on what the main goal is for the assigned family. Do they need to be sealed as a family? Do they need to become active in church attendance? Do they simply need a strong spiritual message in their home that is coming from someone other than the parents? Whatever it is don’t let it go undetermined.
So the next time you want to celebrate your high home teaching percentage — just remember. The New Orleans Saints had the highest first down percentage per game this past season, but they weren’t the team storming the field in celebration at the end of the Superbowl.